A Dragonlance Retrospective: Part 2

Following up on Part 1, we look at the return of Dragonlance from the 90s to its current incarnation.

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The Saga Continues

In the late 90s Dragonlance made another return, with a reboot in terms of both setting and system. It became the main setting for the launch of a new Saga Edition D&D (although this would be a very different system to the one later used for Saga system Star Wars). The changes were huge. The world of Krynn was stolen by Takhesis who left all the other gods behind and claimed it was now the ‘Age of Mortals’. The system was also completely different, more narrative and less dice rolling.

As you might imagine, the reception was extremely mixed. Those new to Dragonlance didn’t see the setting changes. Those who played the new system usually reported it to be well designed and a great way to play the game. But many Dragonlance fans hated the new setting, often just as a reaction to losing what they knew. Additionally, the new system failed to catch on with those who really wanted to just roll a d20. So, after a very mixed reception and a decent collection of boxed supplements the Saga edition faded into obscurity.

Dragonlance Returns

But, as you can see, Dragonlance refuses to just fade away entirely. In 2003 a new company, Sovereign Press, that would later become Margaret Weis Productions, began writing Dragonlance setting books for the new Third Edition of D&D. The new books were back to the hardcover supplements that fans expected, and followed the rules they were used to. This is to say nothing of the renewed confidence at having the original authors back in the driving seat. Sovereign Press produced nearly a dozen new books, including pretty much one for each class. This gave fans the detail they’d been waiting a very long time for in the shape of whole books on Wizards of High Sorcery and the Knightly Orders of Ansalon etc.

More importantly Sovereign Press rewrote the original series of 14 modules into an updated collection under the eye of veteran designer Cam Banks. Dividing the campaign into the same three parts as the Second Edition update, this new version went much further than upgrading the stats. Large amounts of extra options and encounters link the various dungeon adventures and make the whole series a more cohesive and continuous campaign.

There was just one problem though. In 1st and 2nd edition, there was essentially a dragon to fight at each level, and the original modules reflected that. There was a dragon to fight in each module, suitable for the party’s level of experience. However, 3rd edition made a point of upgrading all dragons as high level monsters. It was almost a core feature of the new system that dragons would be a thing for great heroes to fight, whatever their colour and age. So the designers had to find a variety of bonus options to stop the player characters getting slaughtered in the early modules fighting the same dragons who were now well out of their league. This ranges from the Blue Crystal Staff becoming a Deux Ex Machina and one dragon only facing the PCs after a brutal fight with another dragon leaves it on barely any hit points. So the adventures are also very much worth reading as a masterclass in adapting the narrative to the demands of a new system.

Sovereign Press finished producing books after creating a very healthy collection in 2007. Margaret Weis Productions went on to deliver several other games such as Smallville, Firefly and Leverage. Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman, who can both usually be found as regular guests at Gen Con have also just produced a new Dragonlance novel “Dragons of Deceit”.

Crossover Tales

While that would be the last for Dragonlance until recently (except for a fan-crafted 4e conversion on the Dragonlance Nexus) the story doesn’t entirely end there. Dragonlance spread into two other D&D settings. The first was Spelljammer with ‘Krynnspace’ a module allowing Spelljammer crews to reach the Dragonlance setting from space. This not only linked Dragonlance and Spelljammer together but offered Dragonlance fans a view of Krynn as a planet is a system rather than as the continent of Ansalon.

The other crossover came in the shape of Ravenloft, with Lord Soth’s tragic backstory making him one of the lords of a domain. There was even a crossover Dragonlance/Ravenloft adventure facing the Death Knight in ‘Where Black Roses Bloom’. In this adventure the player characters face Lord Soth via several of his memories as he tries to return to Krynn.

Now Dragonlance returns again with Shadow of the Dragon Queen, and perhaps it might spark a few more 5e adventures in Ansalon and beyond. If you want to know more about the history of Krynn in game terms, it is always worth checking out Shannon Appelcline’s product histories on DrivethruRPG and in his books ‘Designers and Dragons’.
 

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Andrew Peregrine

Andrew Peregrine

Hussar

Legend
As a frustrated wannabe DragonLance DM -- I have never actually run the Classic campaign as a contiguous whole -- this year marks the 39th anniversary. And I am finally going to run it - ultimately alongside SotDQ and then attempt to bring them together at the same time and have a campaign crossover. This is my wish.

Bottom Line: a solid 5e conversion of the Classic campaign DL1-14, and updated a tad, is what I want more than anything. There are lots of gameworlds that do generic fantasy better than Krynn - and that's okay. Krynn was made to tell a specific story: the War of the Lance, which remains a compelling and unique campaign. Tell that story well - that's all I ask of the setting and the brand.
i have to admit, this is what I want too. I'm happy Dragonlance is getting a 5e facelift. Fair enough. It's a bit of a shame that it seems to be getting rather overshadowed by the current brouhaha over the OGL and it's release seemed to stir up something of a fitshorm over setting details.

But, yeah, I'm in the same boat that sees Dragonlance as The War of the Lance and am not really interested in anything else.
 

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Ghal Maraz

Adventurer
To be completely precise, the basic Dragonlance Campaign Setting book for D&D 3.5 was a in-house Wizards of the Coast product. "Only" the other supplements were Sovereign Press.
 

Kalashtar

Explorer
One of my favourite sourcebooks from this period is the Legends of the Twins, which details the different ages and alternate versions of Krynn. Really wish someone would do a 5e campaign set in the Age of Istar when the Kingpriest went to war against the Towers of High Sorcery.
 

pukunui

Legend
To be completely precise, the basic Dragonlance Campaign Setting book for D&D 3.5 was a in-house Wizards of the Coast product. "Only" the other supplements were Sovereign Press.
It was published by WotC but it was still written by the Sovereign Press folks. A bit like 5e’s Sword Coast Adventurer’s Guide.
 

Hutchimus Prime

Adventurer
It is a shame SAGA didn't take off. I enjoyed it even more in its Marvel super hero version which I used as a generic gaming system.

I'm surprised no one has OSR'ed/retrocloned it yet.
Marvel SAGA is still my favorite version of a super hero RPG. It just worked.

That said, Dragonlance Fifth Age was missed opportunity and just not very good (esp. those first novels).
 



mamba

Legend
Bottom Line: a solid 5e conversion of the Classic campaign DL1-14, and updated a tad, is what I want more than anything. There are lots of gameworlds that do generic fantasy better than Krynn - and that's okay. Krynn was made to tell a specific story: the War of the Lance, which remains a compelling and unique campaign. Tell that story well - that's all I ask of the setting and the brand.
I'd prefer one of the 3.5 books, but yours will come true... the DLNexus is working on it (plus there are other conversions of it already)
 

BovineofWar

Explorer
Did the Saga era coincide with the Fifth Age books? I never played the tabletop Dragonlance, but I always got the impression DL was driven by the novels, which seemed to nosedive in quality around that time.
 

Pentallion

Explorer
Unfortunately, over the years I've made no less than 3 attempts to run the original DL modules in some incarnation, and just never can get the group invested to get past the equivalent of DL1.
That's a shame. Several of my players have stated that DL 10 was the best D&D adventure ever written.
 

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